Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Comics You Should Be Reading: Locke & Key

When I decided to check out Locke & Key, I made the mistake of only grabbing a few comics. It looked interesting enough, and I figured I'd flip through them the next time I was bored and looking for something to read. One hour later, I had devoured every issue. I was completely immersed in this world, completely attached to these characters, and didn't know how I was supposed to wait to read what came next. I can't remember what I thought Locke & Key would be like. Maybe a neat little comic about a haunted house, or a spooky story about cursed keys. Whatever my expectations were, what I got was so much more.

Locke & Key is one of the most imaginative, engaging comics currently on the market. Writer Joe Hill has built a world that feels incredibly vibrant and full. There are so many ideas in this comic that are only teased at, but it feels like every element of the comic has a complete story behind it. The universe is full of magic, but there's a believably to it that makes even its most fantastic elements resonate. It'd be easy for a comic about a strange house and magical keys to feel cliche, but Locke & Key is something wholly original, from the way its keys are used to the way the story unfolds.

What really separates Locke & Key from so many other horror comics out there is its characters. At times, they feel painfully relatable, and even minor characters feel fully fleshed out. Any character in Locke & Key, even the ones who have only had a few lines, could easily carry a comic all their own, and I'd love to see Hill spin out some characters and develop them further. The characters sometimes make the dumb decisions that all horror characters do, but they feel like natural choices for the character, not unnatural stupidity for plot convenience. It's what keeps them likable and sympathetic, and what grounds the story in the real world.

The art of Gabriel Rodriguez is yet another element that makes Locke & Key so special. I don't think I fully appreciated his work when I first started reading the comic, but every time I re-read my issues, I become more aware of how wonderful his art really is. There are entire stories told only in his backgrounds, and his facial expressions say more than line after line of dialogue could. At one point in the comic, he changes his style to one similar to that of Bill Watterson. It's extremely effective, and it's a testament to his talent that he can utilize a variety of styles without making his art feel like someone else's. Colorist Jay Foto really understands how to bring Rodriguez's work to life, using bright, lively colors that make his panels pop.

Even if you don't normally like horror comics, you should give Locke & Key a chance. There's plenty of subject matter here worthy of a scary tale, but more than anything, it's a story about a family. The relationships between the members of the Locke family err more on the site of painful than saccharine and sweet, but it feels truly authentic, and makes you want to see the family find happiness in spite of everything else. The series is often touching, but those moments come from strange and sometimes twisted places. Sometimes this comic is tremendous fun, and sometimes, it absolutely breaks my heart, but I always enjoy reading it, even the issues I've already read many a time.

I'd recommend Locke & Key to fans of horror, fans of mystery, fans of fanciful tales and everything else in between. It's just a well-written, well paced comic that never fails to suck me in. Locke & Key is somewhat unique in that its stories are told in volumes, which makes it a great book to catch up with in trade. You get a complete, satisfying story in each volume. Just be prepared to go looking for more immediately after you finish what you're reading. Locke & Key is currently in the middle of its fifth volume, Clockworks, and will conclude with volume 6. You can get a peek at the first issue of Locke & Key here, and Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft can be found on Amazon or at your favorite comics retailer.

By Marceline with 2 comments


On my first read through, I really didn't like the art. Not that the art team isn't talent, on the contrary. But the cartoon-y art just didn't mesh with the story. I've finished the first volume, and am now on the fence. It still wouldn't be my first choice, but the style seems to add to the creepy feel of the story, especially considering the main characters are kids. Either way, volume 2 is sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be devoured. Obviously they're doing something right.

Fun fact, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. I guess he wanted to get out of dad's shadow.

Yeah Andrew about the shadow, Joe Hill has two novels and many many short stories. He also writes in the horror genre and his books are quite good. Whatever you do, don't read Horns before reading his collection of short stories or Heart Shaped Box. He is a young writer as far as having many many books so jump on the band wagon early and devour them as they come out. He just finished another novel.

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